Steve's China Blog

Thursday, March 31, 2005

End of March

The end of March is here and hopefully the end of winter too. I've been told that Dalian is one of the prettiest cities in China and I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like when everything starts blooming. During the winter it's pretty much like any city... cold and gray. Laborers started trimming trees and planting new shrubs and flowers all over the city a few days ago.

I have to work on Saturday to support some batch programs that run on the 2nd of every month, so I get to take tomorrow off. I'm not sure what I'm going to do (besides my usual Saturday laundry). I might go get a haircut... That should be scary since my chinese is so poor. I also need to go to the bank and withdraw some money to pay rent. That's always an adventure since all of the forms are in chinese. The economy here is pretty much a cash economy. Not that many people, or even businesses, accept checks or credit cards.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Books and a steak

This weekend I went downtown with a friend and we went to a few bookstores. The large bookstore had some software and some really nice books on Chinese art that I might go back for. The smaller bookstore was a foreign language bookstore (foreign to Chinese, that is), and they had some books in english. I'll probably be going back there when I eventually get tired of reading IBM technical manuals and need to read something with a plot. They had a good selection of Shakespeare, so I might get around to reading his plays that I haven't read yet.

In between the two bookstores was a place that served steak! The steaks they had were sirloin, t-bone, and some huge thing they called the "Australian Cut". I'm guessing it was a 16 oz porterhouse that went for 50 RMB (about $6.25). Each of them includes a small salad, cup of soup, pasta, an egg, tea, dessert (yogart, I think), and a small glass of chinese wine. I wasn't that hungry so I had the sirloin (for 30 RMB). It was pretty good! The wine wasn't that good. I've heard there are some dry chinese wines, but thisn't wasn't one of them (I hope). This was a little closer to cherry cough syrup. They also had pork chops and chicken, as well as chinese food. We got there right before lunch time, so we didn't have too much trouble getting a table. It filled up very quickly after we got there. I'll definitely be going back to this place.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Instead of taking off a lot of one or two day holidays all through out the year, like we do in the US, there are only three holidays here in China when we get time off, but we get a lot of time off during these holidays... usually a week.

The first is the Spring Festival which usually starts in February, the second is Labor Day which begins on May 1st, and the third is National Day which is on October 1st. I think I'm going to schedule my vacations out of China around these. I'm not planning on doing anything this upcoming Labor Day... maybe explore Dalian some more. I might go back to the US in October for a week or so. It will be nice to see everyone back home (and go to the Maryland Renaissance Festival!). Maybe I'll go to Australia and New Zealand around the time of the next Spring Festival. It'll be nice and warm there. Next May should be a nice month to travel around in China and see the sights I didn't get to see on my last trip here. A lot of possibilities and lots of time to plan.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Lost in Translation

I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping this last week. I think it's because of my schedule change. Saturday night I got about 45 minutes of sleep, so I was really dragging when I went to my Tai Chi classes on Sunday morning. It's sort of like the movie Lost in Translation, but I don't have Scarlett Johansson to keep me company.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Breakfast of Champions!

I found a little place near my office that sells pizza! Not only that, they sell Corona beer too!!! I'm going to have to try the pizza sometime... I already got the chicken curry I ordered before I discovered that they had pizza. I'll have to wait until the weekend to have a corona since they close at 9pm and I don't get off of work until much later that during the week. Most of the stores and restaurants close early here. There's a little drugstore nearby called CVS (not sure if they are owned by the CVS in the US) which has a sign that says, "Open 24 hours" in english, but I'm not sure they know what that is.

I can't wait to learn more chinese. I've been learning a little bit here and there, but I need to learn more. It feels kind of weird walking down the street, seeing a bunch of stores and restaurants, and having no idea what they sell unless you actually go in them. I'm glad there are lots of places to eat since shopping for food is tough without knowing the language. I've seen a lot of things at the grocery store that looked good, but I have no idea how to cook it or for how long. I can't help but admire all of those people who immigrate to the US (or anywhere, for that matter) without knowing the local language, learning that and become successful too. It's not easy.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Work and play

Yesterday and today have been really cold here, and with the high wind it feels like 20 below. It's suppose to start warming up on Sunday though, and I hope that it will be the end of the cold weather. I'm ready for spring!

I also picked up a computer game after Tai Chi class last Sunday called Evil Genius. So far, it's a lot of fun! You play the role of an evil genius (like the foes of James Bond) and try to take over the world by building bases, carrying out nefarious acts around the world, etc... while secret agents from various world organizations try to stop you. I haven't got too far into it yet, since I spend most of my time on work related things, but I've been having a lot of fun building my first evil lair, setting up ingenious traps for the good guys, and recruiting and training my minions.

Not too much else happened this week, besides work and getting use to my new schedule. I visited a few new resturants and all were good. One night I went to a place that has western-style food and had spagetti. It was ok. I would have like to have had a glass of wine with it, but had to go back to work after that, so I settled on water.

Oh, I figured out a way to view and respond to comments, so I'm going to turn those on, so anyone can post a comment!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Tai Chi

My work schedule is changing since some of the people I will be working with are in the US. I'll be working from the early afternoon until late at night (Dalian time). I don't think it will take very long to get use to the new schedule since I'm barely use to the time change I've gone through already.

There's a group of employees here who have organized a club that gets together during off hours to do things like go hiking, play soccor, go bowling, etc... They started taking Tai Chi lessons and I decided to join them. Tai Chi is a martial art known for it's slow and fluid movements. Sunday was our first class, and I really liked it. I'm taking two classes every Sunday...Tai Chi Chuan (open hand forms) and Tai Chi sword. I've had some experience with Tai Chi Chuan, so I didn't have too much trouble keeping up in that class. The sword forms class is more difficult since most of the people in the class have a lot more experience with Tai Chi, so the class moves along at a quicker pace.

I mentioned in an earlier post about how dangerous the traffic seems here. After Tai Chi class I came back to my apartment and a pedestrian was hit by a van nearby. He was in pretty bad shape, and I've decided I'm going to be a lot more careful crossing the streets around here.